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Editions

Doyle sinks Docklands ferry pledge

02 Sep 2013

Doyle sinks Docklands ferry pledge Image

By Bethany Williams

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has backed down from a pledge to commit $500,000 to a Docklands ferry trial and has pointed the finger at local stakeholders for letting him off the hook.

During his pre-election campaign last year Cr Doyle promised $500,000 towards the trial of a free weekday ferry service between Docklands and Northbank.

Instead council committed $50,000 in the last budget for a ferry service feasibility study. The remaining $450,000 Cr Doyle promised is nowhere to be seen.

Cr Doyle said following the election he met with Destination Docklands and representatives of the Docklands business community to discuss water transport solutions for Docklands.

“At this time it was requested that a study be undertaken to assess timing, docking points and the possible integration with the proposal put forward by Minister Guy,” Cr Doyle said.

“That study is currently being undertaken and I remain committed to water transport to improve connections to Docklands,”
he said.

Docklands News understands councillors have not been involved in a discussion regarding the pre-election pledge.

Destination Docklands CEO Anita Donnelly said the only conversations she had had with Cr Doyle about the potential for a Docklands ferry service was during the Waterfront Forum in October last year.

The forum was held on October 17, which was after Cr Doyle pledged $500,000 towards the service on October 2.

Ms Donnelly suggested any other discussions about the best way to establish a ferry service may have happened at Waterfront Connections Committee meetings, which former Destination Docklands chair Clive Dwyer was a member of.

The committee was formed as a result of the Waterfront Forum and is made up of representatives from various stakeholder groups from Docklands and the Yarra River precinct. The Lord Mayor is also a member of the committee.

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Stephen Clement sits on the committee and said the committee had made it clear to the Lord Mayor that at least $250,000 was required for a thorough feasibility study into a Docklands ferry service.

“Considering his pre-election pledge, the Lord Mayor should be committing more than $50,000 towards the study.”

Yarra River Business Association president John Ahern is chair of the Waterfront Connections Committee.

At a Docklands Chamber of Commerce networking event on October 9 Mr Ahern said: “We want Robert’s pre-election pledge of the funds to be utilised for the exact purpose of what we are talking about tonight.”

“… I implore the councillors to take back the message, really rattle the cage and get this feasibility study up,” he said.

The comments followed Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Stephen Clements’ call for more funding to be committed to the ferry feasibility study.

But, following a meeting with Cr Doyle last month, Mr Ahern had backed away from his comments.

When asked his position on Cr Doyle’s failure to commit the additional $450,000 he had promised to the ferry study, Mr Ahern declined to comment.

He also declined to comment on whether he honestly believed $50,000 was enough to perform a thorough ferry feasibility study.

In a statement issued to Docklands News Mr Ahern said: “The [Waterfront Connections] committee believes that activation of the waterway, whether it be for transport, tourism or leisure, is best achieved through the combination of the private sector working hand-in-hand with the government.”

“This requires a framework that harnesses both sides of the equation, the enthusiasm and creativity of the private sector, with the environment protections and public interest that are best handled by government. Our efforts are now very much focussed on this approach.”

“If we can get this balance right, we firmly believe that things like a sustainable water transport system will flow from it.”

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